Nobel laureate visits PeaceJam

Rigoberta Menchú Tum spoke at the U over Spring Jam weekend.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum speaks Friday at Northrop Auditorium as part of PeaceJam.

Marija Majerle

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum speaks Friday at Northrop Auditorium as part of PeaceJam.

mackenzie collins

Nearly 30 years ago, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú TumâÄôs parents, two of her brothers, her sister-in-law and several of her nieces and nephews were tortured and murdered by military forces. Shortly after, she began her crusade for the rights of indigenous people and farm workers. Menchú Tum visited the University of Minnesota this weekend to share her life story with more than 300 K-12 students at a conference organized by the PeaceJam Foundation. Menchú Tum is one of 12 Nobel laureates traveling around the United States working with students on how to overcome challenges in their communities. The weekend-long peace conference in Willey and Blegen halls featured a public speech Friday night by Menchú Tum, as well as seminars for the visiting students and service-learning projects in the community. Menchú Tum said she attends four to five of these events each year. The 51-year-old Nobel laureate of Guatemala won the prestigious award in 1992 for her work fighting for the rights of the Maya in her country and indigenous people around the world. Menchú Tum won the prize after publishing a controversial book in 1983 detailing the oppression of her people, the Mayan Indians, and the torture and murder of her family members in Guatemala. That book, âÄúI, Rigoberta Menchú,âÄù came under fire after an anthropologist researched its details and concluded that many of the facts were skewed. However, the fact that her family was killed in guerilla warfare is undisputed. âÄúPeaceJam is one of the priorities in my heart,âÄù Menchú Tum said in Spanish. âÄúWe work with people who want to see light in their life.âÄù Part of Menchú TumâÄôs time at the University included a speech Friday night that was translated from Spanish to English at the event. Menchú Tum shared her life story, struggles and holistic approach to the world. âÄúIt isnâÄôt necessary to have money, but you need to have spirituality,âÄù Menchú Tum said. Laura Schenke, one of PeaceJamâÄôs organizers and a University English senior, said she had some time with Menchú Tum on Saturday during lunch. âÄúShe just has such a presence about her, and sheâÄôs so down-to-earth,âÄù Schenke said. Schenke helped organize the weekend event through a work-study position with the University YMCA and said the weekend was life-changing. âÄúItâÄôs just about getting people out of their bubble and away from technology to connect.âÄù Menchú Tum said that connecting with youth was extremely important to her to learn and teach with the future leaders of the world. âÄúIâÄôm confident they will go help others later in life as competent and patient leaders,âÄù Menchú said.